Update: Monica Kidd is no longer a partner at Pedlar Press. Her participation is gratefully acknowledged and deeply appreciated.
—16 September 2021
PEDLAR PRESS IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE
MONICA KIDD will join Pedlar Press on August 1st, 2018, as Acquisitions Editor / Production Manager.
A Press Conference will be held at Broken Books on Duckworth Street in St John’s NL, at 11AM, August 13th.
Monica Kidd and Beth Follett will be present to answer questions.
“My journey to Pedlar Press started with an unlikely conversation with Beth Follett in her kitchen, over a freshly-baked blueberry pie cooling on the counter. I was back in St. John’s and had stopped in to say hi to Beth and Stan, and for some reason had started complaining about the Scholastic book order program through my kids’ school. I loved that its stated mandate was to make books accessible, but the mostly crappy stories made into mostly crappy objects that were largely a vehicle for stuff (plastic necklaces, toys, detective kits) seemed to underestimate children and their families. I couldn’t talk about it with other parents because who wouldn’t want to Support Childhood Literacy? Beth and I got to talking about the vision and work it takes to make a good book, the struggles of independent publishing in Canada, about her 20 years of finding important voices, and being responsible for every step of a book’s journey from query, through editing and design, launch, and continuing to sell a book years after its debut in bookstores. I knew Beth had had Pedlar on the market for some time and that she wanted more time to work on her own writing. She told me she was contemplating winding down the company if no one came forward soon. She said, “It’s a good life. All I want is for a strong woman in her forties, someone like I was when I started Pedlar, to take it over.”
I walked out onto Bond Street on that sunny Friday morning in October, bound for the airport, and thought, “Wait. I’m a strong woman in my forties.” I felt lifted and clear — and also very foolish. I had been following Pedlar’s work for years. The house made important, beautiful books. Beth seemed exemplary in her belief in the books she published, and in her commitment to her authors. Hers was the right way to make books, for people to hear stories they needed to hear, for writers to continue the punishing work of telling the truth. If a country with a shrinking field of independent publishing saddened me, then there was an obvious solution.
Beyond my embryonic work in letterpress, I had never considered a life in publishing. But I been involved in publishing for 15 years in Canada as an author. I had had books released by four publishers and had learned much about writing, submitting, editing, launching, and then continuing to keep a book alive, at least from an author’s point of view. I was entrepreneurial, having grown up in a small business family in a rural place. I was not afraid of steep learning curves and hard work, having gone to graduate school, worked in dangerous, remote field sites for months at a time, switching over to journalism for seven years, and then going to medical school in my thirties. Not to mention having three kids and running lots of marathons. I had published six books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, with more in the works. Writing had been a constant in my life, and books were where I had always gone for direction, surprise, growth, companionship, strength. None of that experience necessarily qualified me to be a publisher, but it did qualify me to consider it.
The idea rolled around in my head. I had been trying to figure out what to do about medicine. From the day I received my acceptance letter to medical school, I knew that I would have a non-exclusive relationship with medicine. I kept writing and publishing books during my medical training and career; I liked to think that doctoring made me a better writer and writing made me a better doctor, but who could ever truly say? In my non-clinical time, I read and wrote and taught about the role of narrative in medicine, in helping doctors understand patients, and in (hopefully) helping doctors have a more humane approach to care. But I remained perplexed about how to balance clinical work with my own writing: even though I was a writer long before I was a doctor, I often felt sheepish about admitting to medical colleagues that I “only worked part-time” because I was also a writer.
Weeks and months passed. I considered leaving medicine entirely and buying Pedlar outright. That seemed treacherous: I didn’t have the skills to run Pedlar on my own, and though my clinical life wanted a renovation, leaving medicine entirely was the wrong idea: medicine had privileged me with people’s trust and the ability to help sometimes, and it had opened up the world in surprising ways. I also knew from leaving radio and missing it like a phantom limb that it can be hard to look back at a closed door. Even if I did choose to leave medicine, I still had three children to raise and couldn’t commit to the long hours that Beth had put in as a one-woman show for so many years. My family’s long-term plan to get back to Newfoundland was taking longer than anticipated, and I couldn’t head a Newfoundland company while living in Alberta. Maybe the answer should be no.
Then Trump was elected and I was both terrified and fortified: more than ever the world needed ways for more people to speak up. I traveled to Antarctica as a naturalist, felt again the possibility of the big wide world, and ran the idea past people who had only known me for weeks to see if there was an obvious answer. There wasn’t. I talked to other friends in publishing. I wanted to do it, but I doubted myself. I didn’t want to abandon the commitment I’d made to medicine, but I also knew I couldn’t keep apologizing for the place literature occupied in my life. I couldn’t decide. Overwhelmed, I said no. The sense of loss I felt told me that saying no was the wrong answer, too.
Then Beth presented the idea of a partnership. Why not run the company with someone with ready skills in publishing, who could share the responsibility and the hours? That was something worth exploring. There were a few people interested, but no one could commit. Beth offered to stay on as majority partner and train me in. I would take on manuscript evaluation and some editing and production, and she would run the business end of things while I learned. We would continue to look for a partner, but it would be a way to start and have the house continue in a state of transition.
I signed up. I kept it under my hat for months while the contract was signed and until the time I could fully articulate what the journey was about for me, and what I thought I could bring to the work.
And so: my desire to become a partner in Pedlar is grounded in the belief that art asks us to stretch toward truth. We humans are natural obfuscators, confusing ourselves with comfort and power and rhetoric, but we also are full of love and generosity and deep collective intelligence. Art, when it is doing its job, wakes us up. I share Beth’s belief and vision for Pedlar: “So much injustice cries out for attention, so much suffering, so many affronts to human dignity need to be met with strong literary force. Pedlar… means to foster humane social and political ends.”
We need artists of all disciplines to keep working, and I will always be a writer. People are also needed to do the long, quiet, often thankless work of getting art into the hands of others and in supporting artists to do their best work. I believe can do that, so I will, and I will continue to feel my way through a meaningful mix of art and medicine.
It’s supposed to be a grim time for publishing. We are told we have lost our attention span for books, and that hardly anyone reads poetry; my accountant is confused as to why I would take on a business that relies so heavily on government grants. But last I checked, video still hadn’t killed the radio star, and people still carry books under their arm and close them at their bedside. That’s enough for me. Saddle up.”
Monica Kidd is a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and worked for many years as a journalist. She grew up in rural Alberta, and did a B.Sc. in Ecology and Zoology at the University of Calgary before going to Queen’s University to do a M.Sc. in Evolutionary Biology. In 1997, after spending two summers on the Labrador coast as a seabird biologist, she moved to St. John’s where she started working for CBC Radio and went on to win many national and international awards for her reportage and documentaries. In 2004 she left CBC to start medical school at Memorial University; she completed her family medicine residency there in 2011. She and her family moved to Calgary in 2012, where she continues to work as a family doctor in global health and maternity care. She has also built a small letterpress studio operates as Whisky Jack Press. She is married with three young children. Her latest book of poetry, Chance Encounter with Wild Animals, is scheduled for publication by Gaspereau Press in 2019.